Naming: June 2008 Archives

dotcom.pngICANN's announcement last week that they will approve many more domain naming extensions, commonly referred to as top-level domains, or "the familiar '.com' or '.org' suffixes at the end of websites," is exciting news for the future of the Internet, but may possibly cause just as many problems as it solves.

I fall into line with Ben Worthen at the Wall Street Journal who points out that ICANN's expansion of possible domain names will certainly herald a change in the way businesses experience and use the Internet.

I think that those companies that already are established in the dot-com world are unlikely to trade up, but the real problem will come when outside parties try to take trademarked names and use them as Internet monikers, something that is already a concern in Australia where few companies will be able to protect their brand naming by buying up "dot whatevers."

Frankly, any small or medium business will be locked out, regardless of locations.

Local cities may even get their own suffixes, while the proposal also allows suffixes that do not have roman letters, giving China and Japan something to celebrate.

But this sudden cornucopia of choices for domain naming could lead to a free for all if it is not regulated. It would be a shame to see a business having to buy every single possible suffix, simply so that others could not use it.

As in trademark law, businesses that have trademarks on a name with a "historical claim" to a name have priority (Worthen uses the example of Amazon, which would be open, at first, to the bookseller as well as to people associated with the rainforest), but having priority does not mean having exclusivity. Who, exactly, gets to use the ".shoe" or ".apple" or even ".cell"?

One thing is for sure: naming and branding on the Internet just got a whole lot more interesting.

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Naked Cowboy Protects His Brand Naming

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nakedcowboy.pngMars Inc. has good news and bad news today regarding New York's Naked Cowboy and his suit against the candy maker.

The bad news is that the Naked Cowboy can go ahead with his suit against Mars Inc. for "using his likeness, persona, and image for commercial purposes without his written permission and by falsely suggesting that he endorses M&M candy."

Looking at pictures of the Naked Cowboy and his corresponding blue M&M side-by-side, I think it looks like there may be a problem.

nakedcowboy m&M.jpgThe Naked Cowboy wants $100 million in punitive damages, plus attorney's fees. He'll probably have to settle for just $4 million and live with the fact that 67% of People magazine readers think the Blue M&M is sexier than he is.

The good news for Mars is that quality candy is selling better than ever in the United States despite the speculation that we are in a recession, and Mars is responsible for a large share of that. At least one web site ranks their Snickers bar as the number one most popular candy bar.

snickers.pngRegardless, a $100 million law suit for trademark infringement is really nothing to snicker at, but the publicity alone is certainly worth more than $4 million for the company.

What's that saying? "Any publicity is good publicity."

Although they had better watch out for Nestlé, who is trying to take serious market share of the "premium-chocolate" sector that the Candy Snob blog says is typically "more resilient when consumer spending is in general slumps."

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Holiday Inn’s recent upgrade is getting noticed everywhere from New York to Aruba and I’m expecting great things.

Revamping their well known brand name, Holiday Inn is repositioning itself with its chosen target market. A new sign is set to hit 1000 properties, a third of the Holiday Inn hotels in the United States, by the end of the year. The signage is designed along with a “more contemporary brand image” via new guest room accoutrements and a new arrival area that includes a decluttered front desk, plants and even a “customized music and scent selection.”

They even have a new tagline: “Stay Real.”

Holiday Inn new sign1.pngThe new sign is greatly improved from the 1950’s design that we all know and love, but more than that, Holiday Inn is trying to shed its image as being synonymous with the dowdy lodging that Elton John sang about in the 1970s: “The TV don’t work, and the French Fries are cold, room service closed about an hour ago.”

I prefer to think of his final line to that song:” “You ain’t seen nothing, till you been, in a motel, baby, like a Holiday Inn.” I’m sure we will all feel the same way after staying in the newly revamped Holiday Inns that should redefine the brand name for some time.

Can Holiday Inn change its image to compete with the newer Aloft and Indigo hotels?

Of course it can. Brand name recognition, carefully tended, wins out every time.

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28 days later.pngIn the last blog on horror films, I discussed the importance of optimizing a movie title’s descriptiveness and brevity and how that could translate into profitability.

In the list of films I mentioned, I purposely omitted films like Friday the 13th, 28 Days Later, and Se7en.

The reason? The common trait among these film names is the inclusion of a number. Somehow, there is something salient about numbers in movie titles.

At the very least, a number makes a movie name stand out from other names that are (more often than not) number-less.

At the very least, a number adds a mysterious quality behind the name. Take for instance Jennifer 8, a mediocre thriller starring Andy Garcia. What does the “8” stand for? And why is it juxtaposed to a woman’s name?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Sadly, not enough inquiring minds went to the see the film, which died on the vine. But its poor showing may not necessarily be attributed to its name or branding strategy but rather to the overall quality of the film (of which there was none).

More successful films in that regard would be Se7en, 28 Days Later, and The 6th Sense, where each film capitalized upon the mystery of what those numbers represented.

Curiosity led people to discover that Se7en was about a psychopath who kills victims according the seven deadly sins.

Curiosity led people to discover that 28 Days Later was about a bicycle courier who wakes up 28 days after a post-apocalyptic disaster only to find himself one of the only survivors in London, now rife with virus-infected sub-humans.

sixth sense.pngAnd curiosity led people to discover that The 6th Sense was about . . . well, I can’t really explain without spoiling it, but you get the idea.

The worldwide grosses for these films respectively were: $316.4 million ($30 million original budget), $82.7 million ($8 million original budget), and $672.8 million ($55 million original budget).

A film like Friday the 13th may not have seen those kinds of grosses in 1980, but it sure recouped its initial investment during its first weekend. Out of an original budget of $700,000, it earned over $5.8 million in its opening weekend alone! (And that was just domestic gross.)

But mystery doesn’t really apply with regards to this title’s number.

Rather, a film like Friday the 13th benefits from a whole host of superstitious myths, which surround the number “13.” Thus, to piggyback on a familiar myth deeply ingrained in our public consciousness is to reach out to a massive audience who already believes in (or has a curiosity towards) that sort of hokum.

friday-the-13th.pngIn many ways, Friday the 13th had it easy – it didn’t have to educate an audience on what that number meant.

And it’s numerous sequels show that audiences have something new in the public consciousness that surpasses the wickedness of the number “13” – and that is Jason Vorhees.

This hockey-masked killer has become a household name with other fictional characters like Han Solo, Indiana Jones, and Harry Potter.

So what can we say about adding a number to a movie title? It may not necessarily guarantee box office success, but it does provide a hook for audiences to find out more about the film and figure out the significance of the number.

And that initial hook is sometimes all that a successful film, named with a number, needs.

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Amana Jots Down a Product Naming Win for Whirlpool

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amana logo.pngAmana’s new Affordable Design product line is a nice piece of product naming that repositions the well loved Amana name for consumers that typically shop at Target and IKEA.

With Affordable Design, Amana has focused on creating inexpensive, yet attractive kitchen products that even get the nod from the "Design Guy" from Queer Eye For the Straight Guy.

The idea is to hit the savvy young buyer who does not necessarily think that eye-catching form must follow eye-popping cost, while also appealing to Gen Y and Baby Boomers alike.

Here we have the Whirlpool brand name getting a shot in the arm, not to mention the brand name Amana siezing a trendy (yes trendy, not retro) market space in the kitchen.
dry_erase refrigerator.gif
It also interesting to note that the name Amana is from the Song of Solomon and means “remain true,” which fits well with being one of the classic appliance brand names from a generation ago, hence the baby boomer interest.

But what really interests me is the Amana® Jot™ dry-erase refrigerator, which is producing ten times the amount of blog chatter than Amana itself. This fridge costs under $600 and features an erasable door panel where kids can do their thing, you can write memos to yourself or your roommates, and even your cat can post a crazy message.

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Movie Naming: Oh, the Horror - The Horror!

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indiana-jones-crystal-skull.pngThe most profitable summer movie so far may come as shock to you. It is not Indiana Jones or Iron Man or Sex and the City.

It’s The Strangers, a horror film made from a trifling $9 million dollar budget. Since it’s opening release on May 30, the film has grossed over $45 million dollars as of June 15.

Dr. Jones, Carrie Bradshaw, and Tony Stark might have seen higher grosses this summer, but their initial budgets ($185 million, $65 million, and $140 million respectively) have kept them in the red.

That is, red in terms of Hollywood’s rule of thumb for a film’s profitability: the final gross must be greater than or equal to three times the initial budget.

Another rule of thumb in Hollywood, though this is subconscious, is that successful horror films must have short names. Preferably two words or less.

Check out these classics: Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy, The Blob, The Fly, Psycho, Carrie, Halloween, The Thing, The Shining, Misery, Scream, Saw, Hostel, Alien, Jaws, The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, Freaks, Poltergeist, Evil Dead, and countless others.

Now, of course there are the exceptions: A Nightmare on Elm Street, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, House on Haunted Hill, The Blair Witch Project, and The Silence of the Lambs.

But it’s more the exception than the rule that a profitable horror film’s title surpasses two words.

One of the reasons why horror films usually do not have long names is because their budgets are very low, which includes miniscule funds for marketing.

Therefore, a horror film’s title must have a short, graphic name to leave the audience with an instant tone and image.

If you’re asking yourself why, just think about a movie theatre’s marquee, or a newspaper ad. These are the best chances for a smaller-budgeted film to garner audiences. A movie’s name that has stopping power, clarity, and brevity will optimize their chances of profitability.

Moreover, the more descriptive the name in fewer letters, the better. It’s as if a horror film can uniformly integrate an ad’s basic requirements (name, tagline, logo) into one title.

After all, who can dispute the success of that strategy with the following (in order of profitability):

Saw (original budget: $1.2 mill; final domestic gross: $55.1 million)
Psycho (original budget: $806, 947; final domestic gross: $32 million)
A Nightmare on Elm Street (original budget: $1.8 million; final domestic gross: $10.8)

The fewer the letters, the greater the percentage of return.

I’m sure one will find many examples to refute the theory above; however, when it comes to this summer’s grosses, nothing could be closer to the truth.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Original Budget: $185 million
Domestic Gross as of June 15: $276.5 million
Profit Percentage: 150%
Number of Letters in Title: 42
Profit Percentage per Letter: 3.6%

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

Original Budget: $200 million
Domestic Gross as of June 15: $131.9 million
Profit Percentage: -34%
Number of Letters in Title: 35
Profit Percentage per Letter: -.97%
Sex and the City

Original Budget: $65 million
Domestic Gross as of June 15: $119.5
Profit Percentage: 184%
Number of Letters in Title: 13
Profit Percentage per Letter: 14.2%

The Strangers

Original Budget: $9 million
Domestic Gross as of June 15: $45.3 million
Profit Percentage: 503%
Number of Letters in Title: 12
Profit Percentage per Letter: 41.9%

Horror films are a great example of where descriptive names make sense!

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The news that FedEx was dropping the Kinko’s name in favor of FedEx Office is two weeks old, but many people are still trying to deny it.

150px-Orfalea.jpgAmong them is the Kinko’s founder Paul Orfalea (photo on left), who was called “Kinko” because of his frizzy hair. He grew a single copy shop to 1,000 locations and 25,000 employees before FedEx acquired it in 2003. The man is even writing a book entitled Kamelot: Kinko’s Brief Shining Moment in American Business History.

FedExOffice.gifI personally agree that the corner copy shop concept is dying off since most of us have computers and printer/copiers that can do the job, especially for small business owners and even individuals who were Kinko’s stock in trade.

Apparently, the Kinko’s brand wasn’t “elastic or evocative enough to move into the 3.0 economy,” and the word “office” offered FedEx more latitude in its service offering.

So FedEx Office is evocative? I don't think so. By the way, isn't "office" owned by Microsoft in consumer's mind?

The Kinko’s name still engenders lots of nostalgia, with one blogger reminiscing that “If you were alive in 1977, it was the place you went to print out your punk-rock fliers” and claiming that everyone who worked there was “in a band.”

This kind of casual, laid back culture is really at odds with FedEx’s focus on efficiency.

But times are changing. The FedEx stores are a good source of funneling shipping business to that segment of FedEx's business.

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VHBpint.pngIce cream brand naming is becoming even more socially conscious. One of Häagen-Dazs' new ice cream flavors, Vanilla Honey Bee, is now firmly associated with preserving the bee population in the West, by donating a portion of the proceeds to a Penn State/University of California research initiative which is examining why so many bees are dying.

The Häagen-Dazs Loves Honey Bees campaign is partnering with and is involved with National Pollinator Week (June 22-28) via a Washington D.C. “Ice Cream Social on the Hill” event.

Häagen-Dazs have also partnered with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums as well as “A NEW HIVE art installation, hosted by Earnest Sewn” at the New York Earnest Sewn store. They are even making a bee documentary.

I applaud Häagen-Dazs for their effort and for associating its brand name with such a good cause and I can’t help being reminded of The Bee Movie’s cry for help on behalf of the beleaguered bees. I’m sure that Häagen-Dazs is more than happy to have a toe in the kids’ market now that bees are cool.

Not to bee outdone, Ben & Jerry’s, who have long been associated with socially conscious ice cream, launched a new John Lennon inspired flavor called “Imagine Whirled Peace” on May 27th, which comes after the company’s ONE Cheesecake Brownie flavor supporting’s efforts to eradicate poverty.

They are already offering rewards to people to promote peace as an effort that will further popularize the brand name, which borrows from two popular sources: the powerful Lennon brand name, as well as everyone’s desire for a war free world.

It makes perfect sense to me for ice cream to become more and more socially conscious. But of the two brand names, I am more impressed by the Ben and Jerry’s long-term efforts.

Ben and Jerry’s is careful to link nebulous social sentiments to celebrity names like Jerry Garcia (Cherry Garcia) and John Lennon.

beemovie.pngOne has to wonder, however, if Häagen-Dazs has benefited from getting Jerry Seinfeld, the voice behind the main character in The Bee Movie, to lend his own name to the new flavor.

Then again, Baskin-Robbins has been churning out great ice cream naming for years and not getting the same kudos.

Still, knowing that a tub of $4 ice cream is helping save the bees—or the world—helps alleviate some of the guilt that comes from a great dish or scoop of ice cream!

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The PostNuke Software Foundation, a nonprofit, contacted us to develop a new global brand name.

Although the PostNuke name served its purpose, it had a few shortcomings. The name was confusing and did not meet the organization’s vision for the future of its software.

Taken on as a pro bono assignment, the new name had to be available as a “.com” domain name and had to be pronounceable for speakers of major world languages due to the organization’s global scope.

As you may be aware, it is no surprise to let you know that virtually all one, two, three, four, five, and six letter combinations have already been registered as a “.com” domain or are pure gibberish.

zikula.pngZikula, the new brand name and logo, was created from several Zulu words, one of the official languages of South Africa, where “Zila ukudla” means fast and “Lula” means easy, which are the main attributes of the software.

Plus, Zikula is perfectly balanced due to the multiple consonant-vowel combinations, which makes a word easier to pronounce.

Vanessa Haakenson, President of Zikula Software Foundation said, “We are thrilled with the outcome of the name and logo development process that Strategic Name Development partnered with us on to create the Zikula name. The name is fun, unusual, lighthearted, memorable, and consistent with the genre of Web 2.0 names.”

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The World Wide Developers Conference yesterday, appeared to be a good day for Apple, and was especially interesting from a product naming point of view.

To begin with, Mobile Me is now a reality, as I blogged about a few days ago. The less than suitable .Mac is soon to be a thing of the past, thanks in part to the new, less expensive and faster 3G iPhone.

3giphones.pngThe official name for this smartphone is the iPhone 3G, which is headed to stores on July 11. This ends days of frustration on the blogosphere, when many were wondering if it would be called the 2G, 3G or 2.0. The Crave blog attributes the confusion over what the name would be to the fact that “Apple products are effectively named by the community.“

Crave's blog post was proven right when Steve Jobs seemed to play with the name on stage, referring to it as both the iPhone 2.0, as well as the 3G iPhone.

Now, we understand its official name is the 3G iPhone and if you're interested, you can review the patent.

The next Apple OS X, meanwhile, was unveiled as Snow Leopard, which essentially is just a security and performance update for Leopard.

snowleopard.pngSome bloggers, quite a few bloggers actually, seem to agree that it’s not the greatest name, mainly because you sound a little funny explaining to people that your computer’s “running snow leopard.” One blogger even wonders if Apple is just running out of cat names to use.

On the other hand, it could be argued that giving product naming to a service pack like this is a nice touch that supports the Leopard name.

Personally, the name Snow Leopard reminds me of Hemingway’s Snows of the Kilimanjaro:

Kilimanjaro is a snow covered mountain 19,710 feet high, and it is said to be the biggest mountain in Africa. Its western summit is called the Masai "Ngáje Ngái," the House of God. Close to the western summit there is the dried and frozen carcass of a leopard. No one has explained what the leopard was seeking at that altitude.

One thing is for sure. The Apple OS X and the iPhone has pushed the company to a whole new altitude.

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Infogrames_logo copy.pngThere is nothing like a good company naming challenge, but I think that a company called Infogrames has set what might seem like an impossible goal for itself by striving to rehabilitate the Atari name. Yes, Atari.

They bought the name for $11 million and are pumping even more cash into it in an attempt to make it their own.

This is a name that has taken quite a beating over the years, including a Nasdaq delisting a month ago, and has become a name that some simply feel is cursed.

Atari’s history is incredibly complex, but each strand of the story always ends in disaster. Nevertheless, CEO David Gardner feels that the Atari name is still recognizable to anyone who has ever played a video game and that the name will communicate that his company is the “best-funded, best-branded, most energetic start-up in the history of computer gaming.”

One of the reasons that the Atari name lives on is because of its interesting origins. Atari comes to us from the ancient game of Go and is used in a similar manner to check in chess. Being “in atari” means that you are about to lose a game piece unless you move quickly.

There is no doubt that this ancient name, with its roots in ancient gaming, is, at least in heart, a winner.

I can hear the howls of laughter out there already in the blogosphere.

atari.pngYes, this is the same company that gave us some of the weirdest games ever, including the Joyboard and the little known Atari Puffer as well as a whole slew of others that are still only known in the world of retro-gaming.

But interestingly, when Infogrames was looking for a new name, they went to Google and discovered that all the good names they came up with were taken, a lament that I am not unfamiliar with. Infogrames apparently then decided to take on the brand name that they already had, Atari, a name with instant worldwide recognition.

Can the Atari name actually make a comeback? I’m going to say yes, but some very big changes have to be made if Infogrames wants to avoid the Atari Curse.

Blake Snow has some good pointers on the Next Generation that I think should be read very carefully.

The first is that the the various manifestations of the Atari naming have to be combined into one entity. Right now we have Atari Interactive, Atari Corporation, Atari Games and Infogrames' recent purchase. This all must be turned into Atari, Inc.

Atari-Logo.pngIf this is done, the next step is an obvious one, Atari, Inc. needs to create great products that everybody wants. By great products, I mean revolutionary. Offering us a consolidated, recognizable name behind a really cool must have product would immediately wash away Atari’s history of failure in the minds of the consumer.

Anyone who has ever bought an iPod knows exactly what I am talking about.

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Apple Tech Brand Naming: Mobile Me, You Complete Me

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I’m starting to believe the rumors that the domain name has been bought by Apple, who reportedly also bought

It seems as if the .Mac service is going to be rebranded as Mobile Me, leading Apple into a whole new world of connectivity and web dominance.

I dug into the trademark database and discovered that Apple has been working to gain a trademark for Mobile Me in the United States. Currently, they have an international mark, but the federal mark for the United States is still pending in various class codes.


Make no mistake about it, Apple is all about mobility and the Mobile Me name would fit well with the new iPhone 2.0 that is coming out soon, as well as the various iPods and the Mac Air. There is no doubt that Apple is positioning itself as the brand name of choice for the tech on the go.

To this end, Mac has been buying up .Me domain names with a focus on verbs such as or Some users are not really happy with the Mobile Me name, but I think it fits.
.Mac puts the entire focus of it’s online presence on the Mac rather than on the mobile wizardry that has rescued the company from extinction, but Mobile Me's appearance coincides well with the upcoming iPhone 2.0 announcement.

Apple will be seamlessly covering four areas: computing, digital audio, portable consumer electronics and a huge amount of web based activity. It brings the balkanized and expensive .Mac concept into Apple’s center stage.

If—and it is a very big if—Apple succeeds here, it will be bringing Internet connectivity into a whole new stratosphere, allowing people to use their new iPhones like desktop computers and to easily hop on and off the Web to publish and update web pages with pictures, music, design, you name it.

What really makes me curious, however, is exactly what this will do to the signature nomeclature “i” g that Apple started a decade ago with iPod.

The “i” is so tied up with the Apple brand that it is difficult to imagine “me” fitting into Apple's product naming strategy. Although, I do think that the two names will stand up well in the marketplace.

I would be happy to use an iPhone to connect to Mobile Me or use Mobile Me to track back to my iMac via my iPhone.

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Is Hip-hop Branding and Naming Becoming Mainstream?

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think_hip-hop_clr2.pngA new report analyzing the young urban consumer in the U.S. suggests that hip-hop has gone mainstream and “crossed over to suburbia.”

The target market for the hip-hop industry is now 37 million young urbanites, ages 12-34, who had a aggregate income of $594 billion in 2007, which will grow to $684 billion by 2012.

These urbanites put a “high priority” on brand loyalty and the top brands are those that have a direct connection with hip-hop artists, specifically brand names featured in song lyrics as well as on music videos.

Immediately Jay-Z's dissing of Cristal and big-upping of Armand de Brignac in a 2006 music video comes to mind, as well as Lil Jon’s venture to brand name wine from the Little Jonathan Winery.

phatfarmlogo.pngDon’t laugh. Russell Simmon’s Phat Farm, Kimora Lee Simon’s Baby Phat label and all of the clothes designed by Sean-John are in demand.

Rolex, Lexus and Gucci have also decided to climb aboard the hip-hop bandwagon.

Hip-hop urban clothing is the new uniform for the streets, segmented into classic and modern styles.

Hoodies, for instance, are no longer an underground clothing item. The baggy clothes by Artful Dodger, Supreme Jeans, and True Religion are taking center stage, while “Nike Dunk SB, Nike Air Force One (AF1), Adidas Shoes, Puma Shoes, [and] Prada Shoes” have been claimed by hip-hop brand naming.

Along those same lines, a popular Japanese brand name is “Bathing Ape” or “BAPE” and is reportedly on its way to the malls.

Today, WuChess launches as a source of “online chess for the hip-hop crowd." The name was formed by the combination of Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA and chess social network ChessPark.

rachelray.pngHip-hop is even causing trouble for Dunkin' Donuts when hip-hop's fascination with the kiffiyeh led to some controversy after celebrity chef Rachael Ray wore one in a recent commercial.

I'm sure that hundreds of thousands of people learned what the name actually kiffiyeh means last week. Including me.

This scarf seems to have caused endless trouble for the Dunkin’ Donuts brand name because of its alleged association with terrorism.

Fact is, when Dunkin’ Donuts and Chess are affected by hip-hop brand naming, it’s time to listen up.

Technorati Tags: Hip-hop, Phat Farm, Rachel Ray, Baby Phat, Jay-Z, Lil Jon, Rolex, Lexus, Bathing Ape, Bape, WuChess, Dunkin Donuts